The Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) has announced that Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography was granted accreditation by AZA’s independent Accreditation Commission. Birch Aquarium has been an accredited AZA member since 1998.
“Only the very best zoos and aquariums can meet AZA’s accreditation standards for animal care and conservation, which are universally acknowledged as the ‘gold-standard’ within the zoological profession,” said AZA President and CEO Dan Ashe. “By achieving accreditation, Birch Aquarium demonstrates a commitment to protecting animals around the world and inspiring their guests to do the same.”
To be accredited, Birch Aquarium underwent a thorough review to make certain it has and will continue to meet ever-rising standards in categories which include animal care and welfare, veterinary programs, conservation, education, and safety. AZA requires zoos and aquariums to successfully complete this rigorous accreditation process every five years in order to be members of the Association.
“AZA accreditation is affirmation of Birch Aquarium’s commitment to the highest level of animal care and welfare,” said Harry Helling, Executive Director of Birch Aquarium. “The rigorous process also insures excellence in a broad range of important organizational metrics.”
The accreditation process includes a detailed application and a meticulous on-site inspection by a team of trained zoo and aquarium professionals. The inspecting team observes all aspects of the institution’s operation, including animal care and welfare; keeper training; safety for visitors, staff, and animals; educational programs; conservation efforts; veterinary programs; financial stability; risk management; visitor services; and more. Finally, top officials are interviewed at a formal hearing of AZA’s independent Accreditation Commission, after which accreditation is granted, tabled, or denied. Any institution that is denied may reapply one year after the Commission’s decision is made.
This marks the fifth time that Birch Aquarium has been accredited. The AZA inspection team mentioned as particular strengths the cleanliness and beauty of aquarium exhibits, as well as the dive safety program; the seadragon and seahorse conservation and coral conservation programs. The aquarium’s volunteers, commitment to guest experience and new mission were also lauded.
Birch Aquarium is actively committed to the AZA’s conservation initiatives. The aquarium’s newest exhibition, Seadragons & Seahorses, opening in May, showcases species with AZA Species Survival Plans (SSPs), and the hard work and dedication of the husbandry team working to preserve these charismatic fish.
For more information about AZA, visit aza.org. For more information about Birch Aquarium, visit aquarium.uscd.edu.